Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 5, Episode 9 - Iran Deal - full transcript

'Iran Deal' is the worst deal of all time in Donald Trump's Eyes. But John Oliver Explains Why It Is Better Than No Deal. Because this deal strictly forbade Iran to develop any sort of ...

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Welcome to Last Week Tonight.

I am John Oliver.
Thank you for joining us.

We begin with another busy week
for the Trump administration:

the "Sharknado"
of administrations,

spinning out of control,
destroying everything in their path

and will eventually
hire Tara Reid.

This week has been dominated
by the continuing fallout

of last week's FBI raid
on Michael Cohen.

While no charges have been
brought against him yet,

there is one question
on people's lips.

- Will Trump's personal lawyer flip ?
- Will he flip ?

- Is Cohen gonna flip ?
- Will Michael Cohen flip ?

Will the fixer flip ?

He is gonna flip
on Donald Trump.

Has he flipped already ?
What has he been up to ?

Everyone skips the question
"does Trump have something to hide ?"

and goes straight to
"will this guy hide it for him ?"

At this point, the only genuinely
surprising headline would be

"Bombshell: Trump Did Totally
Normal And Legal Stuff For 40 Years."

While the president insists
that Cohen won't flip,

some of those closest to Trump,
like Jay Goldberg, see it differently.

He articulated those concerns, on TV,
in the creepiest possible way.

He's of a type that I've recognized
in the past

as one not suited to stand up
to the rigors of jail life.

I think in many ways,
and it's difficult to say this,

prison has a racial overtone.

A person like Michael doesn't see
himself walking down Broadway

while people are clamoring
"you're gonna be my wife."

What ?

I'm not surprised that Trump
hired him as his lawyer,

it takes a questionable lawyer
to make a prison rape joke.

It takes a Trump lawyer to turn
that prison rape joke racist.

He's implying there that Cohen is
fine with being sexual assaulted,

were it not for the unfortunate
racial overtones.

Let's focus on a lesser-known
member of the Trump circus:

Ryan Zinke,
the Secretary of the Interior.

A man doing a job that Trump
fully understands.

I have to talk about a special guy
that I made Secretary of the Interior.

Does he know the interior ?
He knows it, he loves it,

he loves seeing it
and riding on it.

What the fuck
are you talking about ?

You sound less like a president
trying to introduce his cabinet,

more like guy at a yard sale trying
to sell a couch he fucked.

Do I know this couch ?
I love this couch.

I love seeing it and riding on it.
I just decided, she's not for sale.

Leave us alone. Get out of here.
Give us some privacy.

Zinke's job is to serve as a steward
of America's public lands,

he's overseen the largest reduction
of federal land protection in history,

including reducing the size
of the Bears Ears monument in Utah,

which included land sacred to
local Native American tribes.

While many said that that was
a favor to oil and gas industries,

Zinke pushed back hard.

I'm a geologist, I can assure you
that oil and gas in Bears Ears

was not part
of my decision matrix.

A geologist will tell you there
is little, if any, oil and gas.

Now, the geology is clear on that.

You might've caught Zinke mentioning
that he was a geologist,

at least forty times in public,
including under oath before Congress,

which makes it awkward that,
this week,

it emerged that Ryan Zinke
is not, in fact, a geologist.

He has never been a geologist.
He did major in geology in college.

Which does not make you
a geologist.

All it does is qualify you to watch
the movie "San Andreas"

and whisper:
"it wouldn't happen like that."

Zinke has a pattern of inflating
the importance of past glories.

When he ran for Congress,
he boasted about this.

I was a high school president
and we went undefeated

our senior year in football,
won the state championship.


What was that ?

Would have made
as much sense if he'd said:

"I weighed 6-and-a-half
pounds when I was born."

"I once ate a quesadilla
burger at Applebee's. Bolivia."

All politicians self-mythologize.
Zinke has a flair for creative license.

He served as a Navy SEAL,
which is genuinely impressive.

Here is how his service was
described in an ad for his book...

Zinke rose through the ranks
to be a commander

at the same SEAL team that killed
bin Laden, saved Captain Phillips

and rescued the Lone Survivor.

Zinke retired that SEAL team ten
years before it saved Captain Phillips

and twelve years
before it killed bin Laden.

Zinke has blurred those lines.

He sent out this congressional
campaign fundraising email

citing his time as a SEAL,
with the subject line:

"Who killed Osama bin Laden ?"

Which is only a fair title
if the email goes on to say:

"Not me. You must be
thinking of someone else."

"He sounds great, you should
vote for that guy for Congress."

Zinke may well be
an extremely weird man.

Since becoming
Secretary of the Interior,

he's had his own special flag fly
outside the headquarters.

Which seems unnecessary because
that's something the Queen does.

He's also commissioned his
own commemorative coins,

to give to staff and visitors.

Why would they want one of those ?
Who wants a Zinke buck ?

The current exchange
rate for them is

"here, take it. I don't want it.
The guy's not even a geologist."

Watch what happened at a campaign
rally for a Montana candidate,

when Karen Pence had the unfortunate
luck to be standing next to Zinke.

My God.

The crazy part there isn't even
he lifted up the vice president's wife

and threw her around like
a sack of unbleached flour.

The truly crazy part
is no one else was dancing there.

That at its core is Ryan Zinke.
You may not have even heard of him,

but he is an important,
deeply strange man.

If I may sum him up the way he would
sum himself up in a campaign ad:

"Zinke is an oilfriendly,

"non-bin-Laden-killing weirdo
who throws second ladies around."

"And he is not
a fucking geologist. America."

And now this.

Somebody please tell Ryan Zinke
he is not a geologist.

Management decisions should be
based on objective science,

as a geologist
that's step one.

Ryan Zinke
is not a geologist

But from a point of view of a geologist.

Not a geologist

From a geologist
point of view.

As a geologist.

I'm a former geologist.

I'm a former geologist.

That's the question they ask.
I'm a geologist.

I'm a geologist. I'm a geologist.

Moving on. Our main story
tonight involves diplomacy.

The thing that keeps us from
going to war with our enemies

and from telling Liechtenstein
how we really feel.

You are a snobby polyp on Switzerland,
and they should have you removed.

It is a busy time for diplomacy
in the White House,

with the planning the North Korea
summit, weighing about Syria,

and a state visit with Macron
next week.

None of which is helped by the fact
no one has seen Jared in months.

Where is Jared ? How can we make
crucial foreign policy decisions

without the White House's
goodest boy ?

There's a massive decision Trump
has to make, just around the corner.

The Iran deal is coming up.

After months of "will he, won't he"

the nuclear deal is on
the president's mind once again,

as he faces a May 12th deadline
to decide whether to recertify it.

There's a growing consensus that
this time it may finally be dead.

That is not a good sign
for the Iran deal.

Whenever it's a "will he, won't he"

you can guarantee he will pick
the worst possible option.

Pull the U.S. out of
the Paris Accord ? He did.

Ban Muslims from
entering the country ? He did.

Will he look directly into the sun
during the solar eclipse

while pointing at it as if to say:
"Look ! The sun !" ? He did.

Of course he did that.

Trump has made it very clear
how he feels about the Iran deal.

He's called it terrible, a catastrophe,
stupid, insane, incompetent,

really sad, horrible, horrendous,
horrible, terrible, incompetent,

and "one of the dumbest and most
dangerous misjudgments ever."

Exactly what Trump writes in
Don Jr.'s birthday card every year.

As is appropriate. Those criticisms
are the tip of a very large iceberg.

I think it's the worst deal
I've ever seen negotiated.

My priority is to dismantle
the disastrous deal with Iran.

This is the worst deal.
We got nothing.

They out-negotiated our people.
'Cause our people are babies.

If I win, there's
no more being babies anymore.

That's right, Iran: there's
no more being babies anymore.

We're done wearing pull-ups
and going tinkle in our OshKosh.

We can put our own
straw in our juice box,

'cause we are big boys,
we have shoes with laces

and also a bike
that has Spider-Man on it,

'cause we are big boys, there's
no more being babies anymore.

No more.

This deal dying could have huge,
lasting consequences.

Which makes it odd that nobody
is paying attention to the fact that,

on May 12th, if Trump doesn't
feel like this deal has been "fixed",

he may refuse
to waive a key sanction.

Let's look at the Iran deal,
what it is, why Trump hates it

and what's likely to happen
if he kills it.

It would help to know the history
between the U.S. and Iran,

which has been fraught,
to put it mildly.

Here is a brief recap: in 1953
the CIA helped orchestrate a coup

to depose Iran's elected
prime minister,

replacing him with the Shah,
friendly to the U.S.,

and to whom we supplied weapons
and a nuclear reactor.

The Shah was overthrown
in 1979

and dozens of American diplomats
were held hostage.

The Ayatollah Khomeini
took power,

converting the country
to an Islamic theocracy.

That is an insultingly brief
history of the last 60 years alone,

but if you do want to learn more,
subscribe to my new podcast:

"Talkin' Tehran with John Oliver
and James Van Der Beek."

Here's just a small taste of it.

Let's talk about the privatization
of state-owned enterprises in Iran.

You're talking about
the work of Rafsanjani ?

No, John.
You do this every fucking time.

I'm talking about the underappreciated
role of moderates like Mehdi Bazargan.

Van Der Beek, you're thumping on
again about moderates.

- Shut up !
- You shut up !

Rafsanjani was a glory hunter !

Rafsanjani was the glue that kept
the whole thing together !

Without the backing of moderates,
he was nothing !

We need to do an ad
for MailChimp right now, okay ?

John, do you send
a lot of mass emails ?

It's a good podcast.

If you didn't know James Van Der Beek
was an expert in Iranian history,

expand your expectations
of what people are capable of.

In many Americans' minds,
Iran's image is reduced

to a place where U.S. flags
are set on fire

and where there are chants
of "death to America".

That is still part
of Iranian political culture.

Much of the power is
held by conservative clerics,

who force religious compliance and
pursue an aggressive foreign policy.

Believed to support
the Houthi rebels in Yemen

and Bashar al-Assad in Syria
and are a major funder of Hezbollah

and the current ayatollah
is still saying stuff like this:

By god's favor and grace,
nothing called the Zionist regime

will exist in the region
by 25 years from now.

It's not the most
important part there, but:

the country's name is "Israel"
not "The Zionist Regime".

If you're gonna make threats against
a nation, get their name right.

You would not like it if I called Iran

"Old Pappy Khamenei's
Palace o' Persians," would you ?

You wouldn't like it at all.

That is only part
of the picture of Iran.

There's also a large, educated,
relatively liberal middle class,

among whom opinions of America
tend to be more positive.

They have knock-offs of American
restaurants there called

"Mash Donald's", "ZFC"
and "Pizza Hat".

Which are direct rip-offs of
Marsh Donalds, ZFG and Pizza Hal.

Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani,
is moderate by Iranian standards,

even going so far
as to tweet a few years back:

"I wish all Jews, especially Iranian
Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashanah."

When an Iranian leader begins
a statement with

"I wish all Jews..."
and sticks the landing,

you have to hand it to him.

Pro-Western views are pronounced
among people born after the revolution.

Thrasher magazine,
my favorite skateboard magazine,

did a story on Iranian skateboarding
culture, which has thrived,

despite one obstacle.

Iran is under sanctions

and it's really hard for them
to import anything from the West.

This kind of put the skaters
in a position where they were forced

to make their own boards.

We saw one kid skating
a board made of solid steel.

It's an Iranian skateboard and
it's made of metal. Solid.

This is gonna last forever.

Sick deck, brah.

I'd double up on the grip tape
on my topsheet so I don't slam

when I go sketchy
on a nose grind.

I hope you enjoyed that joke,
it took one of my writers

50 minutes on the skateboarding
Wikipedia page to research it.

But that's true.

Those sanctions are one of the reasons
the Iran deal happened.

After the international community
discovered that Iran was secretly

building up a nuclear program,
it was concerned

and imposed crippling sanctions
affecting Iran's economy,

from oil to plane parts,
to banking and investment.

One key motivator in Iran coming to
negotiate was relaxing some sanctions.

All the partners in this deal,
the U.S., Britain, France, Germany,

the E.U., Russia and China agreed
to lift specific sanctions on Iran.

That's what Iran got out of this.
What did we get ?

And the answer is: quite a lot.

It requires Iran not to enrich uranium
to weapons-grade for 15 years.

To reduce its number of operating
nuclear centrifuges

from 19 000 to just over 5 000
and to increase the time

it would take to make a bomb
from a few months to a year.

It's true. Those
were big concessions from Iran.

The deal required them to reduce
the stockpile of uranium by 98 percent

and mandated they would not
enrich uranium above 3.67 percent,

which is lower than
the 90 percent needed for weapons.

To make a bomb
at under four percent enrichment

is like trying to get drunk
off of a single can of PBR.

You can't. It cannot be done.
There's no fucking way to do it.

Not unless you're a gerbil.
And even then,

only if you're drinking
on an empty stomach.

The deal also had strict conditions
for monitoring and verification,

to make sure
they were in compliance.

If they weren't, we could
snap those sanctions back.

Many felt it was too generous to Iran.
Benjamin Netanyahu called it

"a bad mistake
of historic proportions"

and here in the U.S., there was
hard opposition, with ads like this.

- Dad !
- Bud ! How was your day ?

- Sweetheart.
- I'm starving.

It smells delicious.
Thank you, this looks awesome.

How was your day ?

It only takes one.

A nuclear Iran is a threat
to our nation security.

That is a hostile way
to make your point.

There is only one ad
that you could justify

being interrupted by a nuclear
explosion and it is this one.

Enough !

Good. I'm glad
those children are dead.

But for all the talk over here about
Iran getting everything they wanted,

Iranian hard-liners were furious,
arguing they had given up too much.

Iran's lead negotiator
was this guy, Javad Zarif.

Chilling cellphone footage emerged
of him being confronted

by a member
of the Iranian parliament.

Listen to what was said to him.

It can go to hell !

If this country's unity
falls apart because of your actions,

you'll be the first victim of it.

If ISIS comes to our country,
you will be the first to take the blow.

If ISIS comes to our country,
you will take the blow.

That is both scary and honestly,
not consistent with how ISIS operates.

They don't come to a country
and say:

"okay, nobody dies until
we find that first guy."

"Nobody kills anyone until
that first guy takes the first blow."

"We do this in order,
or we don't do it at all."

"We're ISIS, let's not come off
like crazy people."

Despite all that opposition,
the deal was signed.

Which was a huge achievement,
or, as Donald Trump would put it,

a complete disaster.

I've studied
this issue in great detail.

I would say, actually,
greater by far than anybody else,

believe me.

And it's a bad deal.

Let's be clear here: Trump has never
studied anything in great detail.

If you asked him what color
his wife's eyes are,

he would say "34D but firm".

What, specifically, does Trump
think is wrong with this deal ?

He has complaints. The first has to do
with monitoring nuclear facilities.

In terms of surveillance, they
have the right to self-inspect !

On their major, the most
dangerous, they can self-inspect.

That's not true.
They cannot self-inspect.

The deal allows for regular monitoring
of all declared nuclear sites,

one of which even has
24-hour video surveillance,

done by International Atomic Energy
Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog,

which has confirmed ten successive
times that Iran is complying.

If Iran complies just once more,
they win a free meal at Pizza Hat.

An extra little fun incentive
for them to stay in line.

That is not the only thing Trump gets
wrong about the inspection process.

We see something wrong or
we think there's something wrong,

so we have to wait
24 days before we go in.

But before the 24 days start,
there's a whole procedure,

so could be six months.

He's talking about the fact that while
inspectors have access to their sites,

they also get access to any
other site, military or civilian,

where they suspect
undeclared nuclear activity.

Iran can push back on those suspicions,
but once the IAEA demands access,

Iran has just 24 days max
to let them in.

It is a tall order to completely
clean up every trace of an isotope

with a half-life of 710 million years
in just 24 days.

That's not even long enough
to adequately clean your apartment

after you rent it out on Airbnb.

How is there jizz inside my piano ?
This isn't an accident.

It must be
why they wanted a piano.

One of Trump's other complaints
is that some parts of this deal

expire in ten or fifteen years.

As he sees it, that leads
to an obvious problem.

They can keep the terms and still get
the bomb by running out the clock.

That is simply not true. They can't
keep the terms and get the bomb.

The terms forbid them from doing that.
What Iran could do, in theory,

is wait for parts of the deal
to expire in ten years.

Then it could ramp up
its nuclear program,

getting it closer to a bomb.

If the deal blows up, Iran could start
doing that now, in zero years.

And zero is less than ten.
We ran the numbers on this ourselves.

I spent a week at Cambridge with
the chair of mathematics Michael Cates

and I feel virtually certain,
zero is less than ten.

Before the deal, Iran
had enough enriched uranium

to create eight to 10 bombs,
which they gave up,

meaning they currently have
enough for zero bombs.

Which, again, is less than ten.
I cannot stress enough

the extent to which
zero is less than ten.

We have to agree on that
or we're all fucked.

This deal isn't just between
the U.S. and Iran.

There are multiple countries involved,
none are anxious to change its terms.

Even Boris Johnson,
a man who looks like what would happen

if Draco Malfoy got an MBA
and developed a drinking problem,

even he thinks a renegotiation
is a non-starter.

I don't think anybody
has come up with a better idea.

It's incumbent on those
who oppose the JCPOA

really to come up
with that better solution.

You can't be against something without
having any plan for what comes next.

Trump is like a cat on an airplane
trying to escape from its carrier.

But if you get out, then what ?
Do you have a cat-sized parachute ?

What's your fucking plan ?
I'm not gonna say cat-sized parachute

without showing you
a cat in a parachute.

That is just a given.
I wouldn't do that to you.

Trump articulated what he wants,
some of his demands are non-starters.

He wants a ban
on ballistic missile testing,

unconstrained access
to any military site

and no expiration of any clause
in the agreement, ever.

And if those are dealbreakers
for him, this deal is broken.

You would hope
someone would talk him round,

Trump has surrounded himself
with Iran hawks.

His nominee for Secretary of State
is Mike Pompeo,

who has said of Iran, we know they're
cheating, we're just not seeing it.

Which is a hell of a statement from
a guy who gives rim jobs to gorillas.

No one has ever seen Mike Pompeo
giving a rim job to a gorilla,

but that's how
we know he does it.

Think about it. And even more
worrisome is John Bolton,

his new national security adviser,
a far-right conservative

who Trump had considered
for the job in 2016,

but hesitated because
of his walrus-style mustache.

I agree with Trump on that one.
That mustache is a huge problem.

He looks like he's possessed
by the ghost of Borat.

Bolton has long been
a critic of the Iran deal.

The deal is inherently flawed,
a strategic debacle for the US.

You can always tinker around
the edges and the question is

whether putting lipstick on a pig
is gonna make a difference.

This deal is preventing Iran
from getting nuclear weapons.

Pigs don't need lipstick to look
beautiful, you superficial asshole.

Pigs are beautiful the way they are
and they don't need to conform

to your unrealistic standards
of farm animal beauty.

Hashtag swine is sexy,
hashtag feminism.

Bolton has gone much further.
That ad with the exploding family ?

His group made that ad.
And if you're wondering:

what's his alternative to Iran deal ?
It can't be war with Iran, can it ?

Watch this speech that he gave to a
group of Iranian dissidents in Paris.

The declared policy of the USA

should be the overthrow
of the Mullah's regime in Tehran.

The behavior and the objectives of
the regime are not going to change

and therefore the only solution
is to change the regime.

That's why before 2019

we here
will celebrate in Tehran, thank you.

Holy shit. To my ears,
that is the national security adviser

calling for the invasion of Iran
before the end of the year.

So flagrantly horrific,
your brain can barely absorb it.

It's like the Barefoot Contessa
announcing she's going to murder

and cook her husband Jeffrey,
before 2019.

She's been so obvious if no one
stops her, it's partly on us.

Unless Congress or our European
allies figure out something

they can sell to Trump as a fix,

it seems that Trump is going
to re-impose sanctions on May 12th.

If he does that,
this deal could collapse.

The damage would be long-term
and potentially irreversible.

You would alienate a generation
of Iranians who support this deal.

Think about what this would do
to America's credibility.

Why would North Korea
consider signing a nuclear agreement

if we just broke the agreement we
signed three years ago with Iran ?

If Iran resumes its nuclear
weapons program,

it could start a nuclear
arms race in the Middle East.

I can't offer you much hope.

There is not a "write your
congressman" solution.

We could be in serious trouble,
two of Trump's top advisers are,

like him,
dead-set against this deal.

They're getting backup
from Sean Hannity,

whose show the president
watches so much,

advisers refer to him as
the "shadow" chief of staff.

Hannity hates this deal too.
There is not really a way for us

to get a moderating voice
into this conversation,

short of buying time on Hannity's show
and running an ad like this.

- Dad !
- Bud, how was your day ?

- Dinner is ready.
- Starving. It looks so good.

Hey there, Donald.
Sorry to interrupt your supper.

I'm a cowboy. Don't like pain
when I cath and I'm here to tell you,

the Iran deal may not be perfect,
but it helps restrict Iran's ability

to start making a bomb
for at least ten years.

You blow up the deal, and that
turns into zero years

and if I've learned one thing
from the years of cowboying

it's that zero is way less than ten.

That's correct.

You really wanna listen to a guy
with a mustache like this ?

Don't do it, Donald.
Don't do it.

- Does anyone smell gas ?
- My god, the stove !

Don't blow up the Iran Deal.

That ad is scheduled to run
during Hannity in the D.C. area,

where it will
confuse a lot of people.

I am not saying it's gonna change
anything, but at least we tried.

That is our show. Thank you
for watching. Good night !